19 January 2006

4 years, hot flashes, and meds

If her test results come back all right, my mom will have been cancer-free for four years. There won't be any celebration or "Rah! I survived!" sentiments. If it's fine, she'll most likely forget to tell me.

I remember when she called five years ago to tell me her diagnosis: uterine cancer. I had just been home for Christmas a couple weeks before, and I was annoyed that I'd been left in the dark while I was home. I was living in Tallahassee at the time, but I offered to fly back. She told me not to worry, not to come, but she sounded upset despite her best efforts. I wanted all the details, but she didn't really know them. My questions unsettled her and her ignorance alarmed me.

At work the next day, my mind was consumed with what would happen next. I had a good deal of free time that day, so I read everything I could find about it on the web. Diagnostic procedures, types of uterine cancer, stages, treatments. The more technical the medical jargon became, the more thankful I was for my liberal arts education. If she had endometrial adenocarcinoma and the biopsy showed growth of a small enough amount, then the proposed surgery would be considered curative. When I called back, what she had found out meshed with my research. It had been caught early enough, so radiation therapy wouldn't be necessary unless it recurred.

That was five years ago. She chooses not to think about it, but she hasn't really been the same since. Her awareness of her mortality colors her moods, decisions, and opinions. As a result of the cancer, she had to discontinue hormone replacement therapy which threw her headlong into unabated menopausal symptoms. Her doctor (whom she likes) is male and clearly has no grasp of daily life with hot flashes. He's been telling her their severity would dissipate for years now except that they haven't. I understand and respect his unwillingness to prescribe hormones that could re-trigger cancer growth, but his female physician assistants had told my mom there were other things she could take for it. For over a year, I've been telling her to see someone else or to at least convey to him that her hot flashes are not some simple blush but rather full-on sweat attacks.

At last it seems she took my advice and talked to him about it. Of all things, it seems an antidepressant might do the trick. "Because then you won't care," mom joked.

I smirked and shook my head because I understood quite well her opinion of "mood altering drugs." I'm excited by this development though, and I think the choice of an antidepressant was deliberate for additional reasons. It was her doctor who asked her what she thought about making it four years cancer-free, if she had any ritual or plans to celebrate. It may be just the thing to shake out the low-level depression that lurks in her system.

Having mixed feelings about my past experience on meds, I know it's more complex than that. Even now, my dear friend Splice thinks depression is getting the better of me, but what I'm trying to figure out is not something that meds or therapy can resolve or fix. Besides, I hated being on meds and ultimately found them more cumbersome than helpful. I can only hope that my mom will reap the benefits I've seen in many others. I'd just like to see her happier.

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  1. At least your mother will go to the doctor...my mother hasn't been in years, despite the fact that she's 56, smokes like a chimney, and has started losing her teeth. She doesn't eat properly (she's underweight), and sometimes has horrible asthma attacks that leave her bedded down for days.

    The last time I mentioned that she should go, she screamed at me for 15 minutes, and froze me out for 15 days. I don't get it.

  2. Here's to your mom getting over the hot flashes soon - like my mom did. And even if we had some laughs (not malicious) whenever suddenly her glasses would "fog up" from the heat - I'm happy she's over it. As is she!

    And for your own sake: I'm sure you'll work it out, whatever it is - I actually belive in happy thoughts and little frases of motivation you may repeat to yourself - in time you'll start to believe it and then it comes true!

  3. Here's hoping her reports come back clean and cancer free. My mom was a three-time cancer survivor. She went through hell and treatments and surgery, and she was an amazing trooper through it all.

    Very best wishes for good health - and an end to hot flashes - for your mom.



  4. Jeopardygirl: that's got to be rough. Sometimes you just can't get people to do what's best for them.

    Rarity & Merujo: Thanks for the kind words. I think my mom's been rather a good sport about her hot flashes, but they also interrupt her sleep, and that's just got to wear on a person after a while (and certainly after a couple years- as if my dad's snoring wasn't bad enough!).

    She was a smoker for a long time, so I'm actually more concerned about what that may herald in the future. But until something comes up, there's just living your life to do.

  5. Wishes for good health for you Mom. I went through something very similar with my own mother and breast cancer. Illness really sucks!